“It’s human nature to wonder” – Conor Oberst
Do you ever wonder what happens out in the bush between the usual game drive times? Do you ever wonder what animals come past a watering hole to drink and at what time during the day? These are questions I often ask myself yet don’t go and figure out the answer to. One winters day, from 06:00 to 18:00, I settled that state of wondering. That burning desire to know what the answer may be has finally been satisfied.
I decided – now that we have the time – to go and sit at a watering hole in the middle of Londolozi for 12 hours. Yes 12 whole hours straight. I packed a cooler box with some water and drinks, I made myself two delicious cheese and tomato sandwiches, I had a table, a chair and a note pad and off I set. I arrived at Shingalana Dam at 06:02 in the morning (2 minutes later than I wanted to be), and only left the same spot at 18:02 that evening.
I found a perfectly sheltered spot where I could see most of the watering hole and I started setting up for the day. Before I even had time to settle in, there were lions calling in the distance. Would they come for a drink? I could only wonder!
About an hour in, the first animal came to the watering hole. It was not the lions, but the two wild dogs that are currently denning on Londolozi. They were out on the hunt and did not spend too much time at the water. Next came along a journey of Giraffe that were very hesitant to drink due to my presence, but as soon as 2 male impalas walked straight up to the water, they followed suit.
Time went by before I had a strange feeling something was sneaking up on me. It still amazes me to the day how quiet elephants can be when they walk. Today was no exception, as a large elephant bull snuck up behind me. I only became aware of him as he dipped his trunk into the icy water, 15m away. We were both startled at the sudden sight of one another and so he moved off to drink on the opposite side of the waterhole.
The bird life was abundant with lots of doves, starlings, lapwings, herons, and blue waxbills. Families of warthogs came and left, a herd of wildebeest drank and then settled in the clearing not too far away, and a lone buffalo bull appeared for a short drink before he ran off. No longer was I wondering, but really just observing.
There were periods of the day where there was no activity around the water’s edge, but when the animals came to drink, they came in numbers. I had expected to see elephants but I was pleasntly surprised when a herd of 40-odd came for a drink. With so many elephants in the herd, they tend to drink and move away quickly and so as soon as the last elephant arrived the first few started to leave.
I had decided that I had to stay at the water all day but that was tested a few times especially when there were monkeys alarming not too far away. I had the urge to pack up and quickly see if I could find what had triggered their change in behaviour, but I waited at the water hoping that the whatever it was would come for a drink. Nothing did.
As the sun set at around 17:30 I had some time to reflect back on the day. How amazing it was to sit there alone and become part of nature’s movement. I stayed in one spot all day but nothing that came to drink hung around. Were they wary of my presence or could it be the fact that they arrived with a purpose, fulfilled that purpose and moved on?
At least I no longer wonder what moves to and from the water during the day and what happens while we are not watching.
But there is always more to wonder about…